Anyone curious about the government's current thinking on NHS procurement may be interested in this story passed on to me by a medical friend. Earlier in the year, Tony Blair was a guest at the ward rounds of King's College hospital in south London, along with an entourage of officials, managers, minders and so on, when he suddenly stopped and turned to the doctor leading the parade. "Look, what do you really need?" he asked. "Two new wards," shot back the consultant. Blair nodded, then called over a flunky for a whispered conversation.
Staff thought no more about the incident, until, three months later, a huge crane appeared and proceeded to winch two large Portakabins into the quadrangle. They were, it turned out, cardiac wards, delivered on Blair's personal instructions. Pretty impressive, I think – and those who point out that the hospital wasn't short of cardiac facilities are just spoilsports.
Save the Wales
The perennially popular sport of Welsh-bashing has been taken up by architecture critics, who are taking the principality to task for its aversion to modern architecture. Zaha Hadid's opera house and Will Alsop's Swansea library have fallen by the wayside, they say, before adding that Lord Rogers was sacked from the Welsh assembly job.
It's all a bit unfair, says one prominent Welshman. Peter Wynne Rees – the middle name is proudly displayed on his business card – is city planning officer at the Corporation of London and he feels the vilification has gone too far. "Welsh is the Saxon word for foreigner," Rees tells me, pointing out that his people were around long before their tormentors, the English. "We're the native Americans of the British Isles."
London vs Frankfurt
Rees went on to point out that the English no longer have anything to fear from their German fatherland. More specifically, the threat posed by Frankfurt to the City of London is now officially over. "Frankfurt's finished. I haven't dreamed about it for ages," says Rees, arguing that, despite its profusion of skyscrapers, the place is just too provincial to attract global corporations. "It doesn't have people, it doesn't have nightlife," he adds, by way of explanation. "On a recent trip I was the last person in the last bar at 1am."
Battle of the sandwiches
Canary Wharf's war against construction workers continues. After controversially banning site clothing from its shopping mall last month, the east London development is now taking a food retailer to court for selling the wrong type of food. Sandwich outlet Bene Bene is accused of breaching its contract by selling items such as chocolate bars and crisps. This might sound trivial, but a friend of the caterer informs me of the real reason for Canary Wharf's beef: the cheap food was attracting site workers into the mall and putting the bankers off their focaccia.
What's Latin for 'goooooooal'?
So stylish, the Italians. Whereas British youngsters use jumpers as goalposts, their Milanese counterparts are warming up for the World Cup with kickabouts in one of Italy's most historic squares. According to a colleague who visited the city recently, Roman columns are being used for goalposts in Piazza San Lorenzo. Imagine the uproar if teenagers here were to start using Stonehenge for a game of three-and-in …
Sven's secret revealed (again)
Manchester architect Stephenson/Bell has managed to keep its influence on the selection of the England squad very much under wraps. Until last week that is. The day after the announcement that such luminaries as Martin Keown and Danny Mills were to grace the World Cup with their cultured artistry, strange messages appeared on the wall of the practice's Manchester HQ. The legend "Sven is a bastard" was twice emblazoned near the entrance by, presumably, local youths. Does this mean that they intend to hold the practice responsible for the result of the Argentina game?
Election fever claims QS
Danny Chalkley, the cheeky director of project management and QS firm NAP Sherwin, is riding high this week after being elected as one of the youngest members of Westminster council. Chalkley, 30, will take up a role on the finance overview and scrutiny committee and the city's planning committee after being elected with 67% of the vote to represent Vincent Square Ward in the south-east of the city.
Unfortunately news reaches me that the demands of Chalkley's political career got the better of him as soon as the result of the election count broke in the early hours of the morning. Apparently, as the winning councillors headed off for a massive celebration, Chalkley retired to bed – exhausted.